In the Greenhouse

greenhouse

Four weeks ago we started our first batch of seedlings in a friend’s greenhouse.  We escaped the chill of a 17-degree afternoon for a balmy 60 degrees and surrounded ourselves with trays of emerging shoots and the promise of spring.  Four weeks ago it was quiet in the greenhouse.

Yesterday we went back to a completely different scene.  Our baby plants were “huge” and the greenhouse was bustling.  I’m surprised that our farmer friend still generously lets us start plants in his space because my how his operation has grown over the past few years.  Inside tables were completely full of plants, and dozens of trays had already been moved outside under row cover to “harden off.”  As many as seven people were inside the greenhouse at once: transplanting peppers, starting tomatoes, watering, moving flats of seedlings.  I managed to snap just a few quick photos when we first arrived (at the end of the lunch hour), before the hustle and bustle resumed.

greenhouse amie

We have a mini chamomile forest again (I can’t blame the girls this time; I seeded the chamomile plants myself!) as well as some new flowers that we’ve never grown before (Sweet Alyssum, Statice, Chinese Forget-Me-Not, Bells of Ireland).  We brought home two trays of brassicas all ready to plant in our garden under row cover (kale, broccoli, and brussels sprouts), and so we’ve got our work cut out for us at home this weekend.

flats

sweet alyssum

A month ago it was 60 degrees in the greenhouse but yesterday it was over 80!  Ellen suggested that we take off our boots and go barefoot.

bare feet

I have to pace myself in the bright light and heat (and I no longer care that my sunhat looks rediculous).  Fortunately, the girls were a great help yesterday.  They worked with me to make the soil blocks; write labels for the trays; and seed many varieties of tomatoes, basil, peppers, cabbage, cucumbers, parsley, squash, watermelons, pumpkins, sunflowers, zinnia, and cosmos — among others.  All together we started another 400 baby plants.  This is our third year starting seedlings in the greenhouse, and it has become a tradition that I look forward to all winter.  So much of our garden begins here.  We are so grateful to be welcome on Reid’s farm and to be part of a new growing season coming to life.

onions

Seeds

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On Saturday we sorted through piles of seed packets from last year, taking stock of what we have left, trying to remember what grew well.  Which variety of tomato was our favorite?  Why didn’t we get many cucumbers?  Did they get munched by insects or were the plants just too crowded by neighboring flowers, melons, and beans?  I have a tendency to sow seeds a little too close together — squeezing in as much as possible.  Sometimes I overdo it.

Jeffrey and I sat at the table together for nearly four hours: pouring over seed catalogs, making lists, dreaming.   This year, like every year, I resolved to take better garden notes.  Last spring I was diligent about writing down planting details.  Then summer came, the vegetables grew wild, and I stopped taking notes.  We do have photos, fortunately.  And when I look back over photos from last summer, I see clear evidence of my favorite plants: those wily volunteers that sprout after an entire winter (or two) under the snow.  The calendulas, the borage, the sunflowers, the odd pepper plant, sturdy kale, and scallions . . . I cherish these determined souls.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I love ordering seeds in winter.  I love the promise of another season and the allure of a catalogue filled with potential for color, texture, and flavor.  But I’m particularly intrigued by the mysterious seeds that sit outside my window right now, dormant under a frozen white blanket.  What will come up, unbidden, in the spring?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Photos from October 2014

When we drop into stillness with reverence and curiosity, we may be surprised at what we find.  Yes, there may be wells of grief and tears that need to be shed.  There may be loneliness and uncertainty, vulnerability and the fear of the unknown.  But there’s also something glimmering underneath the winter snows, a seed of creativity, a moment of possibility that, when given attention, can be nurtured into something new: a poem, a story, a project, a recipe, a dance, a song, a painting.  It’s not ready to blossom into the fullness of its manifestation, but the tiny beginning is here, and you can only hear it if you slow down enough to listen.  — February: Listen for the Seed